After leaving Brazil without a win four years ago, Japan made a dream start to their Russian campaign even though head coach Akira Nishino was only appointed in April. In an explosive start to the Group H clash, Colombia defender Carlos Sanchez earned the first red card of Russia 2018 with a handball after just four minutes.
Travelling Colombia fans turned the Mordovia Arena into a sea of yellow, but were soon stunned into silence.
When Osako fired in a shot from Japan’s first attack, Sanchez blocked the effort with a raised arm.
Referee Damir Skomina showed him a straight red card after pointing to the spot without referring to the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
The Colombians bitterly protested but Kagawa drilled home the spot kick to put Japan ahead in the sixth minute.
The pressure paid off as Quintero’s low free-kick flew under Japan’s wall and crept inside the post shortly before half-time. The goal was confirmed by goal-line technology. Japan pressed after the break, forcing Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina into a string of saves.
To a deafening roar from Colombia fans, Rodriguez came on for Quintero on 58 minutes, just before Barrios earned a yellow card for clattering Kagawa from behind.
Japanese pressure paid off when Osako, who was a constant menace to the Colombia defence, leapt highest from a corner and guided his header in off the post with 17 minutes to go.
The goal jolted Colombia into life as Rodriguez then Barrios went close at the other end.